Chapter 52 of the Rule deals with the creation and maintenance of sacred, silent space in the monastery. The Oratory corresponds most closely to what we today call the Sanctuary.
The Oratory was to be a place where monks could pray in undisturbed silence anytime during the day. It was a space wholly dedicated to worship—public and private.
I don’t want to be an “old fogey” in this blog, but as I read this chapter, I wondered if we have lost something as our sanctuaries are often “noisy” before and after worship services. I am all for people having the opportunity to visit, catch up on things, etc. But perhaps we have chosen the wrong place for doing it.
There may be folks who would like to come early and pray quietly—or stay late and pray silently. But because the rest of us use the space to “chat,” they probably won’t do it. Because they are nice folks, they’ll probably never tell us that our conversation is distracting. So, we’ll never realize we were interrupting something that might have made their time at church all the more reverent.
Without making a big deal out of it, the monastic community simply said, keep the Oratory as quiet place. It wouldn’t be that hard to return the sanctuary to a similarly quiet space. And who knows what might happen if we did?